Batman returns from self-imposed exile for 8 years to save Gotham again.
The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Screenplay: Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight)
Cast: Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight)
Runtime: 164 min
By John DeSando
If you’ve had enough of Batmen because of the likes of Val Kilmer and George Clooney, then you haven’t enjoyed Christian Bale in director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and now the superior Dark Knight Rises. Bale brings the anguish and triumph of a real human being who suffers and overcomes his sorrows to fight the forces of evil—the American way.
While that way is too often by way of violence in movies, this iteration, where Bruce Wayne returns from self-exile to fight the fearful Bane (Tom Hardy), is more often punctuated by intelligence (in weapon designs and mostly in strategy). In fact, the violence is frequently mundane fist fighting, almost as if to emphasize guile over missile. Sadly, the two battles between Batman and Bane are so dull that I longed for CGI to elevate the sophistication. Body blows hardly satisfy in this high-tech world.
Characteristic of Nolan, the bad guys are memorable and formidable: Bane has a mask to remind us of Darth Vader with his power and darkness, actually coming from a pit of darkness as if from some Poe-like tale of terror; Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) is witty, slippery, and mercurial while sporting a figure Hathaway must have worked hard to fashion; and the surprise villain, well, is more vicious than the others because of the ultimate disguise (not to be disclosed here for fear of my being thrown into the naughty-critic pit).
Then there’s Alfred (Michael Caine), Bruce Wayne’s faithful servant, whose soul is almost as tortured as Wayne’s. Caine is called on to shed a few tears, which are more believable than all the CGI machines. I wouldn’t be surprised if Caine gains an Oscar nomination for supporting role (he won two Oscars already). As for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cop, John Blake, subtly effective is he in gaining our sympathy so that he is guaranteed to return in the next Batman production.
I am unusually effusive about the acting because it is so good, but I should not forget that themes are always prominent in this series. Global finance, loyalties, and warfare; and, of course, the ambiguity of human beings, symbolized by masks, keep this comic-book thriller from sinking in its own weight of explosions and bombast.
The Amazing Spider-Man impressed me a few weeks ago because it caught squarely the young person’s challenges of self-centered arrogance and growing maturity thorough responsibility. Now The Dark Knight Rises shows the inner struggles of an adult hero racked with doubt, more inclined to forsake responsibility than to save humanity. As for the Avengers, it now looks like a showcase for costumes at a Comic-Con convention.
Nolan and Bale have caught the angst of adults everywhere who, when confronted with financial ruin or the need to defend their turf from alien forces, may bail out rather than face down the evils. Despite the questionably-long 164 minutes, the artists of this film have kept every minute interesting, fast-paced, and highly useful to develop a pride of heroes who should keep us entertained for at least next decade.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org.
He also appears on Fox 28’s Mind of a Man
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com